A Soldier’s Night Out ~ short story by sekanblogger

It was a Friday afternoon after a long and dirty haul back to base. We had just finished a week of field maneuvers. Me and my pal Tommy, who had enlisted with me, were looking forward to three things: unloading our drunken Sargent into his bunk, getting a shower, and heading into town to get a few beers of our own.

Sarge was a lifer in the service. He had landed at Normandy and had seen some of the bloodiest fighting in the world. Nobody knew much about him, but he had a fistful of medals that told us he’d seen too much. Those medals and a picture of his parents from Oklahoma were the most we knew about him. He never married, said we boys were his ladies, and he loved to call us all faggots. He was missing the top one-third of his left ear. When I asked him what happened, he said, “I left it in France at a whorehouse, now mind your own fucking business.” The other guys couldn’t believe I had the balls to ask him.

With Sarge passed out in the back of the supply truck, we pulled up to the back of the barracks and hustled him inside. It was three o’clock, and he was always passed-out drunk by that time every day.

I’m not sure what time Sarge started drinking, but he smelled like fresh beer at roll-call every morning. I’m sure he didn’t start his career like this; God knows any normal man could not make it through what he’d been through as a lush. Now he was just getting by. Hiding out in the army. 

We had only taken Sarge to town one time. He drank whiskey, despite our protests. It did not end well.  After losing all his money at poker and starting a fight, we had to take his keys from him and drive him back to base. The MP’s found him in the parking lot wearing only his boxers, and brought him back to the barracks at about 2 a.m.  He told them he was looking for his motorcycle. They knew he had sold that bike years ago after a drunken wreck. The MP in charge that night told us, “Don’t take the old man to town anymore if you care about him. Two more years, he gets to retire. I’d like to see him make it.” We didn’t take Sarge anymore.

Tommy got dressed first, it was six o’clock and he wanted to get to the beer joint. “Hurry up, faggot!” Tommy half-whispered to me. “Sarge has been out for hours. Let’s get outta here before he comes-to and starts drinking again.”  Tommy shot pool like the original shark and made a few bucks on weekends when he could. He was saving for a car and had two hundred bucks stashed towards a Buick he saw downtown. Tommy always liked to take me along, because I was friends with the bouncer and we kinda watched his back.

We headed out hitch-hiking and it was getting a little cold out. “Goddamnit, I wish the reservoir would go ahead and freeze over. I’d prefer ice-skating over hitch-hiking to the pool hall.” He grew up in Minnesota; me in Arkansas. I always thought he was kidding, but tonight it dawned on me:  real men do ice-skate. I was freezing. Southern Arkansas was like the Amazon compared to this.

We finally made the walk around the reservoir.  We had to walk the road at the top of the dam to get there. The pool hall was called “Jack’s Joint.”  We always told everybody it was “the best pool hall by a dam site.” Six tables, well-lit. Snooker, 9-ball, billiards, they were all still played. TV was only a couple of years old and people still knew how to do things, play things and have fun.

Tommy was up forty bucks. Take out the five he’d given me to drink on, he was doing pretty well. It was starting to get late, and some of the bigger losers were not only getting full of beer but they were getting annoyed at Tommy. I was hanging out at the bar and talking with Rita, a stunning redhead who’d had a couple too many already.

”Hey man, if you and your bouncer buddy don’t want to fight tonight, I think we should be going,” Tommy interrupted. “See that huge sailor over there? He’s out twenty bucks and says he’s got to win it back, but there ain’t no way I’m lettin’ that happen.”

Looking for a quick way to base, I asked Rita about her plans. Rita was not only a lovely lush, she was interested in me, and had a car. I explained that we had to get my buddy back to the barracks or he was AWOL.  I, however, had a weekend pass and needed a place to stay. The deal was set. Tommy got his money, I got lovely Rita for the weekend and the sailor went home broke. Perfect.

We hit the night air, and it was apparent that Rita was blasted. She had a beautiful car and gave me the keys. Tommy got in back, wide awake and sober. I saw him in the mirror making kissy-faces while making a “fucking” motion with one finger into his other palm. I flipped him off in the rearview mirror and got back to driving. It was only about a ten-minute drive, but low and behold…my great hopes for weekend sex succumbed to Dionysus.  Rita was passed out with her head on my lap. SHIT. WHAT A DAY. ”What we gonna do with her?” Tommy asked.

“Give me your overcoat,” I told him. He wiggled it off and tossed it up front. “She is getting us back on base,” I told him. I covered Rita up, slumped over in the passenger seat, and headed up to the guard station.

”Hey boys, you win at pool tonight?” the MP asked. He knew damn well Tommy won; he lost to him last weekend.

“Yep, but the fun’s over. Sarge here got in a fight again. He was pretty loaded and got his plow cleaned before I could help. You think me and Tommy could sneak him through if you get some of your money back?”

He looked pissed off.  Long pause. “Sure. Ten bucks.”

”Shit man. You’re killin’ me! There go the white-wall tires,” said Tommy.

“Hey, buddy, I told you not to bring Sarge out, now what is it? Ten bucks or pops goes to the pokey–which one?” I gave back the five bucks drinking money to smooth it over with Tommy and the MP let us go through.

We made it back to the barracks and I pulled Rita over behind the wheel to try to make it look normal I guess. We went in and there was the old man snoring like a motorboat. I pulled his boots off, covered him up and found my bunk. Tommy was in the pisser when it happened.

A car horn at full blare.  And at something like 3:00 a.m., in the middle of an Army base. Crap. We were busted.  Maybe.

Tommy ran out of the head with his zipper down, shouting at me, “Hey, I think it’s your drunk date, asshole!” Tommy ran outside as Sarge stirred.  He didn’t wanna be standing there full dressed when Sarge woke up at that hour, especially for this shit.

Sarge heard the horn blaring. He jumped up in a sleepy, half-drunken state, grabbed his pants and boots, and started yelling, “AIR RAID, AIR RAID! AIR RAID, AIR RAID!” over and over. Everybody started to stir, rubbing their eyes and watching in disbelief.  We’re not even in a war! Had Sarge finally lost it?

I jumped up and looked outside. Tommy did not cut-out on me like I thought. He was out at Rita’s car, getting the door open.  She was so soused she passed out on the goddamned horn.  He shoved our “free” ride home off the steering wheel.

The ol’ man kinda snapped out of it when the horn quit. He immediately sat down, and, in a different tone, lower and calmer, changed his chant to “ALL CLEAR, ALL CLEAR,” and then he pulled his pants off and was asleep in seconds.

Tommy came in freezing, frowning, and calmly muttered. Everybody there was staring at him, except for the unconscious Sarge. Tommy announced for all to hear: “That’s it man. I gotta get my own fucking car. That is it.” 

Tommy jumped on the bunk above me, pulling his clothes off. “We need to find a better way to make money,” he said. “You ever worked the railroad?”

Copyright 2010 by Tracy A. Phillips

Tracy A. Phillips resides in Southeast Kansas and is a married father of two and grandfather of two. A pedigreed ancestor of Ozark Hillbillies and Oklahoma Sooners, he was born in 1960. Growing up in a small town in the 60’s and 70’s, he was a gifted trumpet player. However, when the 60’s culture reached small-town Kansas in the 70’s, he dropped out of college, majored in screwing up and generally disappointing his mother. He enjoys writing when inspired, and always writes for and about common, everyday people. Blogging as sekanblogger, much of his focus is on populist opinions for those less fortunate in life, and also some undercover evangelism, which he refers to as “the Bible in drag.” Mediocre in most every way, he always tends to countenance the hackneyed.

9 responses to “SOLDIER STORY

  1. Damn! I rarely read so fast and laugh so much. This story is a great one, and I had flashbacks to a couple of funny moments in Fort Benning. I love this kind of humor, told straight-up like we were at a bar. You should start a collection.

  2. Your description of Sarge was a great technique. It made me want to know more about him, and pulled me in for the rest of the story. A funny tale overall. Nice work.

  3. A fun romp, Tracy. I like the odd detail involving Sarge’s mutulated ear and its unexpected origin. Well done.

  4. Sol

    Mr. Phillips, there is much to admire in your Challenge and elsewhere on your blog, but please help me understand what you mean by your clarion call to mediocrity. I am not from around southeast Kansas, so I completely miss the cultural reference. It seems like such a strange aspiration. Is it tongue-in-cheek? Is it just about populism? Is it about the superiority of anti-exceptionalism, or is it about anti-superiority? It sounds like a rationalization for complacency. Surely there can be dignity withoug complacency.

    • Thanks for your comment/inquiry! I guess the whole mediocrity meme has several meanings to me. It is primarily “tongue-in-cheek”, but also rooted in the several other things you suggest. Populism, you bet! But, I really don’t aspire to be anti- anything. People who are superior and exceptional are sorely needed in today’s society and, as long as those traits are used for the greater good, I would promote them in any way possible. Being a populist, I also like to think that the mediocre souls can make a difference in the world. I appreciate the fact that mediocre people’s accomplishments are gained through much hard work. Such people can ill-afford complacency. Another “tongue-in-cheek” factor is the lack of respect that Kansas and it’s people generally receive from others. Some of this disdain is earned by our state’s “conservatives” who seem to value the “Joe six pack” types and despise intelligence people. We are not the only state with this problem, but being so close to Oklahoma seems to cement our reputation. (humor) Speaking or redneck humor, staying in the middle of the herd has it’s benefits. It gives you a better chance to not be roped and transformed into a steer!


  5. Sol

    Great reply. Very helpful. The Oakie humor reminds me of the old Will Rogers joke (not worth repeating here,) which probably reflects an ongoing east coast bias. (I certainly shared in it until I came down to earth in fly-over country.)

    Re: making a difference in the world. Here’s another meme: “leading from the middle.” It ain’t easy. To be done right, it requires courage, intelligence, honesty and compassion — qualities in short supply almost everywhere these days.

    On mediocrity and superiority…. It’s multi-dimentional, isn’t it? Clint Eastwood pointed out, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” Enlightened leadership requires enlightened followership. The herd briefly grants its leaders certain limited prerogatives. (Beware “crab bucket syndrome.”) It’s a matter of job specialization — not rank.

    • Thanks for the ongoing conversation! You have probably noticed that I haven’t “blogged” for a while, or even spent any (leisure) time on the internet. As Will might have said; I’m as bust as a gopher in soft dirt. Okie/redneck humurous bits of wisdom that get passed down for generations, I love that stuff. Leading from the middle…I like that! Enlightened Leaders and Follwers seem to be rare birds these days. Isn’t this problem the topic of Thomas Frank’s book “What’s The Matter With Kansas”? Now with the Super-PAC money flowing like a waterfall, I’m not optimistic about the near future of enlightened leaders. It seems that recently, the most popular politicians adopt the ‘Joe the plumber’meme along with a very healthy (unwarranted) self-image. How odd that the voters who like the plumber image also equate wealth to wisdom. Nobody is “self-made” entirely. We are allproducts of the circumstances we are born into, and Lady Luck is quite fickle. I hope to find time to blog and write more, but that’s not happening anytime soon.


  6. Your story is lots of fun. Character came to life.

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